For the second part of my Italian dinner party dessert trio, I wanted a little baked treat to serve as a crunchy counterpoint to the creamy panna cotta and the simple strawberry dish. Looking through my Rustic Italian Cookbook by Kathleen Sloan, I settled upon the classic amaretti recipe.
These almond biscuits are the essence of elegant simplicity; unpretentious and understated in appearance, yet all style when it comes to flavour and texture. The delicately crunchy exterior gives way to a chewy, luxuriously almond-flavoured and sweet interior. Charmingly browned around the edges and sandy in colouring on the top, these cookies were the perfect choice to serve to the Sandlord (our guests included the couple from whom we rent our summer cottage at the beach). His look of appreciation when he bit into his cookie was certainly gratifying.
Amaretti are so easy to make. The recipe consists of little more than ground almonds and sugar folded into whipped egg whites. That said, I still managed to make a couple of silly mistakes while making mine. My ever-so-charming almost one-year-old granddaughter was visiting (oh yes, her mother came along too) and I’m afraid I was distracted by all that cuteness. After toasting the almonds, I ground them up right away and folded them into the egg whites while still warm, causing the pillowy base to deflate. Then, while chatting away, I placed the first batch far too close together on the baking sheet, ending up with almost wall-to-wall, somewhat squarish cookies. Fortunately, I had enough batter left to make some nicely round ones for serving.
I did make another batch of these last week, this time taking care to totally cool the almonds before grinding them. And guess what, it didn’t really make any difference to the finished product. That said, I still recommend cooling the almonds before working with them.
One final note, after storage for a day or so the cookies become quite hard, although they still had a hint of chewiness in the centre. Freshly baked, or a day or two later, these biscuits are a lovely treat.
Amaretti (Almond Biscuits)
This recipe is from Kathleen Sloan’s Rustic Italian Cooking, with slight adaptation. Makes about 2 dozen (the original recipe says 4 dozen, but I made mine bigger).
Pre-heat oven to 325º.
- 2 cups (500 ml) slivered almonds, toasted and cooled
- 1-1/4 cups (300 ml) granulated sugar
- 2-1/2 tbsp (37 ml) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
In a food processor or blender, combine toasted almonds, sugar, flour and salt. Pulse until the mixture resembles very fine, powdery crumbs.
Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Fold in the ground almond mixture until well-blended.
Using a tablespoon measure, mound the batter onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Note: I noticed that if the cookies are not baked enough they will stick; when that happened I put the tray back into the oven for a minute or two more.